St Peter & St Paul Church, Shoreham TQ
ROCHESTER DIOCESE: HISTORICAL AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL SURVEY
Tim Tatton-Brown's Survey 1994
LOCATION: Situated at just under 200 feet above
O.D. on the chalk on the east side of the Darent river, not far above
the village and bridge.
DESCRIPTION: This church, which is famous for its magnificent
surviving Rood-screen and loft, was unfortunately heavily restored in
1864 by Henry Woodyer. The east end in particular, was rebuilt and
many of the windows have been restored. The western tower was also
completely rebuilt in c. 1775, and the west wall of the south
aisle is completely obscured by cement render, and the north wall of
the nave by render and stuck-on flint. Despite this, the architectural
history of the church has been worked out by F C Elliston Erwood and A
D Stoyel, and fully published, after the later had done some
small-scale excavations (op. cit. below).
The earliest nave and chancel have been discovered, by excavation, to
have occupied the site of the present nave. There was a small 16 feet
square chancel, probably of early Norman date, on the site of the
central part of the nave and the original nave extended west from
this. Fragments of its west wall may survive in the present nave west
In the late 12th century a west tower was built (at the same time as
the present west tower) and the tower arch into this can still be seen
at the west end of the nave. It is pointed and has simple chamfers on
Reigate stone blocks (much covered now by whitewash) with rough
tooling marks. No capitals only simple chamfered abaci.
The position of the Polhill chapel on the north-east suggests that the
chancel was enlarged in the 13th century but no above-ground evidence
survives for this.
In the early 14th century the two two-light Decorated windows (with
chamfered rere-arches) were put into the north wall of the nave, and
what is probably a tomb niche was built on the north-east side of the
nave. It has fine carved hood-stops.
The next addition was probably the north-east or Lady Chapel (later
the Polhill chapel) which has windows in the north and west walls in
an early Perpendicular style. They were made in Tunbridge Wells
sandstone, and have chamfered rere-arches.
In the later part of the 15th century, the whole of the south aisle
and south chapel, and the fine slender six-bay arcade were
constructed. There is no evidence for an earlier south aisle and
chapel, but they well have existed and been demolished at this time.
The east end of the chancel may also have been reconstructed at this
time, but the 1864 rebuilding makes it difficult to confirm this. The
east window of the south chapel, though completely restored, is
perhaps in an earlier Perpendicular style.
The south doorway into the south aisle is a fine `early Tudor' affair
without a hood mould and with a stoup to the east. It is probably
contemporary with the south aisle, as is the fine timber porch around
it. Though quite heavily restored, the porch still contains many of
its original timbers, including the very large and striking monoxalic
durns to the outer doorway. There are also carved barge-boards above,
and traceried side lights.
The nave still has its later 15th century crown-post roof over it,
while there is a simpler (and much restored) rafter collar, and
soulace roof over the south aisle. The slightly higher east ends of
both roofs have later boarded ceilings, and the Polhill chapel seems
to have a 19th century crown-post roof.
The final major pre-Reformation feature that was put into the church
is the magnificent early 16th century Rood screen and loft which runs
right across the east end of the nave and south aisle in eight bays.
There is late Perpendicular tracery in the screen, and the loft is
supported by fanning out timbers on both the east and west sides. The
contemporary Rood-loft stair also survives, built into the south-east
corner of the Polhill chapel, and its wooden doors at top and bottom
may be original, though much reconstructed. There has also been quite
a lot of repair to the screen.
The octagonal font is also probably 15th century, and is of Ragstone
covered in small pick marks. This was apparently done so that it could
be painted with `imitation grained marble', as described in the
earlier 19th century (all now removed). There is a c. 17th century
octagonal wooden lid with a finial.
The distinctive brick and knapped flint west tower was apparently
rebuilt in about 1775 after a fire. It stands on the site (and
foundations) of the earlier tower.
The main and thorough restoration was in 1863-4 by Henry Woodyer, as
we have seen. The north-east vestry (now also containing the organ)
was also built at this time. The organ is the choir section of
Schrider's organ of 1730 for Westminster Abbey, and the pulpit also
comes from the Abbey (who own the advowson of the church). It was
designed by Blore in 1827, and is a fine early 19th century
Gothic piece, but missing its base.
The nave was partially refloored in 1956-7.
BUILDING MATERIALS (Incl. old plaster, paintings, glass, tiles etc.):
The rubblework for this church is a mixture of local flint, ironstone,
and Ragstone with some reused Reigate stone. Later quoins and plinths
are in Ragstone, with a few earlier (14th century) jambs of Reigate
stone surviving on the north. Tunbridge Wells sandstone was used for
the (Later 14th century) buttress quoins and window dressings in the
Polhill chapel. The late medieval arcade is also in Reigate stone, as
were the original south aisle windows.
Much later repair with red brickwork, and then with heavy knapped
flints and Bath-stone.
A fragment of old glass (Pelican in a roundel) in north-west nave
window top light.
EXCEPTIONAL MONUMENTS IN CHURCH:
Several very fine 18th century monuments, listed by Newman in
B.O.E. (West Kent and Weald) p.522.
CHURCHYARD AND ENVIRONS:
Size & Shape: Very large rectangular area around church (much
extended to north)
Boundary walls: Flint faced and brick wall to east.
Building in churchyard or on boundary: Lychgate on south-west side.
Exceptional monuments: Some good gravestones near church.
Ecological potential: ? Yes - formal avenue of small fastigiate yews
south of church and fruit trees etc. to the west. Other yews to the
HISTORICAL RECORD (where known):
Earliest ref. to church: 12th century.
Evidence of pre-Norman status (DB, DM, TR etc): Has Otford as a
chapel, joined to it.
Late med. status : vicarage.
Patron: The Archbishop (a peculiar in the Deanery of Shoreham) till
1538, then to crown and on to private hands and then to the dean and
Chapter of Westminster Abbey.
Other documentary sources: Hasted III (1797), 10-13, mentions the
`newly erected steeple' of brick and `chancel at the east end'. Test.
Cant. (West Kent, 1906), 68.
Previous archaeological work (published): By A D Stoyel, of
excavations beneath nave floor (1956-7) and around the base of the
west tower (1958) - see op. cit. (below).
SURVIVAL OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL DEPOSITS:
Inside present church: Quite good, but with some burial vaults, and
some underfloor heating ducts.
Outside present church: ? Good, though the east end of the church
seems to have been disturbed at foundation level during restoration
work. There is also a large drainage channel around the east end and
along the south side.
ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND HISTORICAL ASSESSMENT:
The church and churchyard: An over-restored church with an unusual
late 18th century tower, but containing one of the finest
Rood-screen (and lofts) to survive in Kent. Excavation has found the
plan of the early Norman nave and chancel (below the present nave),
and late 14th; century Lady Chapel survives on the north. The
south aisle and arcade were built (or rebuilt) in the late 15th
century, along with the fine timber-framed south porch.
The wider context: The almost complete surviving Rood-screen and loft
(with associated stair-turret) is a rare survival, of a once common
REFERENCES: Notes by F C Elliston-Erwood, in Arch. Cant.
65 (1952), 144-8 and `Recent discoveries' by A D Stoyel in Arch.
Cant. 73 (1959), 216-9l - both with plans. T P Smith `Three
medieval timber-framed porches' Arch. Cant. 101 (1984),
Guide book: Brief leaflet with rough plan (c. 1990).
Photographs: Rood screen in Kent Churches 1954, 134, with porch
Plans and drawings: View from south-east in 1799 by Petrie, showing
blocked east window with only a `lunette' above, also doorway into
south side of Mildmay chapel. Plan by F.C.E.E. on south aisle wall.
REPORT BY Tim Tatton-Brown